Buffel Free Great Victoria Desert

A Buffel Free GVD

Buffel grass is recognised by the Australian Government as a key threat to native biodiversity in Australia’s arid heartland. As an aggressive colonizer it rapidly transforms landscapes causing significant losses of native flora and fauna and negatively impacts on Indigenous cultural practices, including the availability of bush tucker.

The relatively untouched Great Victoria Desert (GVD) has been identified as one of the few landscapes where broad-scale Buffel grass invasion could potentially be averted. With the GVD spanning the South Australia, Western Australia border, close cross-border collaboration is key to effective Buffel grass management of the region.

Buffel grass does not recognise borders

The Ten Deserts Initiative, started in 2014, supports cross-border collaboration to improve arid zone land management outcomes. Although a number of Indigenous land management groups are currently undertaking Buffel grass management programs in and around the GVD, the Ten Deserts Initiative proposes bringing these groups, and other stakeholders together in a coordinated and targeted way to develop and implement a strategic Buffel grass eradication plan.

All about Buffel

Buffel grass, Cenchrus ciliaris, is a deep-rooted, perennial grass which is believed to have originally arrived in Australia with Afghan camels in the 1860s. It is a native of eastern Africa and Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Buffel grass was also planted in the 1960’s across central Australia as a pasture grass and dust suppressant. It has since spread across large areas of Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

South Australia is the only state or territory so far to have officially declared Buffel grass a weed.

Within the pastoral industry, buffel grass is widely considered the species of choice because of its wide adaptation ability and tolerance of drought, fire and over-grazing. Being high yielding and easy to establish and maintain it has financially benefited many pastorally-based rural communities.

Why keep the GVD free of Buffel

The Great Victoria Desert is one of the last deserts in Australia that maintains its pre-colonial biodiversity. The importance of ensuring this pristine habit remains unspoiled is immeasurable.

Buffel grass takes nutrients out of the ground and displaces native grasses along water courses, expansive rangeland grasslands and arid land ranges. It transforms arid landscapes into a monoculture destroying native grasses, shrubs and fire-sensitive trees.

Being significantly more flammable than native grasses, Buffel grass produces high-intensity fires which damage eco-systems never previously exposed to such extreme temperatures. Such fires also present a risk of damage to valuable infrastructure and property as well as threaten the well-being of people in the region.

Currently Buffel grass is only found in a few isolated locations in the GVD and in larger abundance in some surrounding areas.  It is imperative that action be taken now to prevent it from forming monocultures that, once established in the GVD, will be almost impossible to eradicate.

The Ten Deserts Initiative

The Ten Deserts Initiative supports collaboration between Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia arid land management groups.

(See http://www.tendeserts.org for more information).

Buffel grass does not recognise borders. The Ten Deserts Initiative supports bringing groups together to collate cross-border data, assess cross-border resources and develop a single action plan that can be effectively undertaken across the GVD.

The Buffel Free GVD vision is long term total eradication of Buffel grass in the Great Victoria Desert through the development and implementation of a collaborative strategic plan.

At present, a working group made up of representatives from cross-border land management groups and interested parties, is in the process of developing the plan as well as leveraging resources and support.

Bringing knowledge and resources together

The integration and collation of relevant cross-border information will be invaluable to the development of a Buffel Free GVD eradication strategy.

In SA a Buffel Task Force (through SA Biosecurity, and funded by the Native Vegetation Unit of the Department of Environment, Water & Natural Resources) was established in 2013 to:

  • gather base data about the spread of Buffel grass and
  • develop management plans to minimize the inadvertent spread of buffel grass by human activity
  • regulate the use and movement of buffel grass across all land tenures in SA
  • develop and maintain early detection and eradication mechanisms.

This program finishes on 30 June 2016.

In South Australia, Natural Resources Alinytjara Wilurara (NR AW) are taking the lead on working towards a Buffel Free GVD, while in Western Australia Spinifex Land Management supported by Rangelands NRM are playing a collaborative crucial role.

To add your support behind making the Buffel Free GVD vision reality, please contact Ten Deserts Coordinator, Jimmy Cocking coordinator@tendeserts.org 0423511931.

(c) Ten Deserts Initiative 2015 – 2020